Bret and Jemaine first met in 1996 at Victoria University, Wellington. Jemaine vividly remembers the first time he met Bret; “he was wearing a hat”. Bret doesn’t remember meeting Jemaine, but says it was unforgettable.
In 1998 Bret and Jemaine decided to start a band. With a combined knowledge of three chords on the guitar they set about jamming out. The first song was Foux Du FaFa, (two chords) and they called themselves Moustache. The four piece band had Bret on casio-tone, Jemaine on guitar, and their friends Toby Laing and Tim Jaray on trumpet and double bass. They performed their one song at the Wellington Fringe Festival late night club and members of the audience were said to have been “mildly impressed” by the act.
After the encouraging feedback the pair continued to write songs in their living room, subjecting their six flatmates to relentless three chord jams. After several weeks they knew four chords and Jemaine got them a gig to perform at the Thursday night Comedy Club. On the afternoon of the gig they realised they needed a band name. The initial list of names included Roxygen Supply, Albatrocity, and Tanfastic. But the final name was chanced upon in a series of events that went something like this: Jemaine went to the bathroom and noticed the flat toilet was called the Concorde, he returned from the bathroom to suggest the name Conchord, and Bret said “What about Flight of the Conchords”, and Jemaine said “okay”, and Bret said “okay“, and Jemaine said “okay then” and Bret said “We should go to the gig, we’re late”.
By 2000 they had written a dozen songs and decided to escape the New Zealand winter and perform at the Canadian Fringe Festival. The Calgary show was a success, mostly based on the fact that the Friday and Saturday night crowds sold out because the audience thought they were going to a different show.
Following their successful shows in Edinburgh in 2002, 2003 and 2004 the BBC Light Entertainment Department commissioned the band to make a six part radio series. Bret and Jemaine moved to London in 2005 and spent five months writing and recording a mockumentary about the lives of a fictional version of themselves. The show was the first time they collaborated with NZ comedian Rhys Darby who played the character Brian Nesbitt, the fictional band’s manager.
Later that year Bret and Jemaine received an invitation to perform at the Aspen Comedy Festival, in Colorado, USA. Against tradition they left New Zealand’s summer to go to the northern hemisphere’s winter and were shocked by the snow when they stepped off the plane in t-shirts and jandles. The HBO executives liked their act and asked them to film a half hour performance for a stand-up comedy show called One Night Stand.
Over the next four years they made a TV pilot, a sitcom, released an EP and a full length album, toured North America, made a sandwich, filmed a second season of the sitcom, toured North America again, released a second album, and went back to New Zealand.